Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi have been jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, 2014.
Malala needs little introduction, as the inspiring and outspoken Pakistani teenage girl who was shot in the head in 2012 for her views on education and women’s rights, she has become a pillar of female and youth activism, famous the world over. She now attends school in Edgbaston, Birmingham and following her statement of earlier this year – ‘I will only miss school for an engagement if it is going to bring about real change’ – one can assume a comment on the award will be expected only after ‘hometime’!
The lesser known Kailash Satyarthi, over forty years Malala’s senior, is Indian and despite training as an Engineer, gave up this much sought after career path to create Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement) to eliminate trafficking and mistreatment of children in India. His work focuses on reducing bonded child labour throughout the country, in order to free innocent children.
The announcement of Laureate always results in some dissatisfaction from various parties, every year. Malala’s win allowed some to take to twitter to make a stab at the committee’s controversial choice five years ago of Barack Obama. One invididual tweeted: ‘I’ll go out on a limb & say 2014 #NobelPeacePrize winner, unlike 2009 winner, won’t launch drones or make kill lists’.
I was alarmed to see disgruntlement with the choice on Facebook as well. One friend took to social media today to suggest that Malala’s efforts are not deserving of Laureateship, on the basis that she (said Facebook user) had activist propensities in her youth, but was not shot in the head, so was never offered an equivalent opportunity to prove herself.
I wholeheartedly disagree with such sentiments. This is not only for the astonishing work that Malala has done, both before and since the attempt on her life, and the ongoing efforts of Kailash Satyarthi, but because I feel there is a political dimension to this year’s winners. As live fire continues on the Indo-Pak border, to me, the most furiously positive element of this year’s choice is the symbolic unity of man and woman, old and young, Hindu and Muslim, India and Pakistan.
As the Nobel committee put it, an effort ‘to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism’.